Chopin's Piano Sonata in B Flat Minor Opus 35 - The Finale








As noted in Chapter Three, it was the Finale of Chopin's second piano sonata that puzzled Schumann most. He viewed it more as a piece of irony than music. It has captured the imagination of many, causing hosts of commentators to extend their views as to the literary associations of this movement. On the face of it, seventy-five bars of quick, non-stop triplet passages in unison between the two hands with hardly a change in dynamics may seem like a strange choice for the final movement of a sonata. Modern commentators have tried to demystify this movement by means of harmonic and motivic analyses. These analyses will be discussed in due course; first, however, a glance at some reactions to this movement provides interesting reading.


Frederick Niecks describes this finale as "the solitude and dreariness of a desert."[221] The famous nineteenth-century Russian pianist Anton Rubinstein interprets it as "Winds of night sweeping over churchyard graves."[222] Tausig described the "very peculiar" finale as "...the ghost of the departed wandering about" after the "Marche funèbre"; subsequently, only two weeks before his own death in 1871, he referred to it as "...the wind blowing over my grave."[223] Alfred Cortot saw "...the freezing whirlwind descending on tombs."[224] Mendelssohn was known to dislike the work, saying, "One may abhor it, yet it cannot be ignored."[225] With reference to Chopin's comment that the hands are "gossiping" after the march, Niecks interprets this as the good neighbours discussing the merits of the departed after the burial, albeit with a spice of backbiting.


According to Jurij Cholopow, a survey of writings on the Finale shows that it has been accused of a lack of melody, obscure and undefined harmony, lack of subjects,


[221] Niecks, Frederick. Frederick Chopin as a Man and Musician, Vol II (London: Novello, Ewer and Co., 1890), p. 227.

[222] Weinstock, Herbert. Chopin: The Man and His Music (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1959), p. 241.

[223] Newman, William S. The Sonata Since Beethoven (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1972), p. 491.

[224]Gavoty, Bernard. Frederic Chopin, tr. Sokolinsky, M. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1977), p. 387.

[225] Huneker, James. Chopin: The Man and His Music (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1900), p. 169.


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